Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Alzheimer's Care Giving

"What makes a good care giver for Alzheimer's"?  Dan was curious to hear about what made our services special. Dan's wife Lisa is suffering from Alzheimer's and they have been trying several agencies without much success. " My wife prefers to sleep in all the time and it is not good for her health. She needs to go out a bit more and also eat better. Right now the appetite is not there and she is losing weight".

Dan's concern is legitimate. The caregivers right now sit and watch the TV, because his wife is sleeping. " This is ridiculous. Isn't there a better way?". "Of course there is a better way" I told Dan. The most important thing to realize with Alzheimer's patients is that there are no standardized approaches that would work for all Alzheimer's cases. Each case is a unique case and the care plan has to be developed customized to work for that client. It may or may not work for the next client. Also the approach has to be one of constant improvement.

Caring for Alzheimer's and Dementia clients can be quite unlike caring for any other type of situations. A patient rehabilitating from surgery or muscular dystrophy etc are all capable of thinking and understanding. They can have good communication with you and understand your conversations. They can also tell what they need and what they don't. However, in the case of Alzheimer's clients, the caregiver has to do the thinking. Alzheimer's clients are like children and the caregiver becomes the parent.

Alright, Care giving for Alzheimer's is not just a regular care giving job. There are some unique approaches that helps in caring for Alzheimer's clients.


In many situations verbal communications does not get very far with Alzheimer's clients. Clara, one of my client's wife recently asked me to take her husband Paul to the doctor's office. Paul has been very challenging to handle, he does not understand any verbal communication. The nurse at the doctor's office asked Paul to sit on the hospital bed. Paul was not getting it. They tried several ways to get Paul on the bed. No luck. I then jumped up on the bed like a kid and started bouncing up and down like a kid, "hey Paul, want to try this?". Paul could see this was a lot of fun and he to jumped up on the bed. Next the nurse wanted to get his BP and Paul would not the girl touch her. I rolled up my arm showing off my biceps and Paul instantly did the same. Nurse could now take his BP, making it look like she was checking out his muscles. Here standard verbal communication did not work. But they can mimic your actions.

Change of scene, Nancy's dad has been driving away all the caregivers she hired for him. I covered this under my previous blog " I don't need a nanny". here the difference was the dad does not know the caregiver as a nanny or a caregiver. He thinks she is someone he knows and she is there to hang out with him. So the approach has to be constantly creative. Look for things that will connect with your Alzheimer's clients and develop from there. Don't be stuck to a standard approach.

Take Charge
When the caregiver for Nancy's dad meets him, she would immediately take over. "Fred, are you ready to go on our lunch date", would be her opening conversation. She would take charge of the situation right away and orchestrate the activities. Remember, you are able to think and act and your Alzheimer's clients depends on your thinking ability. Take charge and please do not wait to be told what needs to be done.


Smile a lot and that brightens up your clients face and her demeanor. Show enthusiasm and drive to be there. In my experience, I have seen the Alzheimer's clients are very perceptive. They may not be able to express it, but it certainly reflects in how they connect with you or responds to you. Enthusiasm sends out a positive vibe and I have seen in most cases than not, they respond positively to it.

You will need a lot of patience. Many communication may be repetitive and in circulatory mode. Owing to their reduced information retention capacities, they are bound to repeat their questions or conversations. Don't be offended, it has nothing to do with you. It is a function of the disease they are going through. Also there are no rules of conduct that your Alzheimer's client is going to remember. We have have the patience to start the conversation all over again and again.

Let us be honest. Caregiving for Alzheimer's clients can be very taxing. You need to have good endurance skills. So make sure you rest well and you have fun doing what you are doing. If you ignore your health, there is only so much you can do to help someone with Alzheimer's.

Love & Compassion
Caring for Alzheimer's clients is like parenting. Your words and action has to come from a high point of love and compassion. Trust me, you are doing god's work taking care of Alzheimer's clients. If you are the chose one to provide care, you are already better than most people.

Have a good night folks and thanks for reading my blog. If you have any feedback, I will be delighted to receive them.

Warm Regards

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